Yesterday was overcast and the high temperature only reached 33 degrees, but somehow it didn’t feel as cold as it had the few days before. I spent a solid hour and a half out back harvesting greens and playing with the chickens who ventured into the yard for the first time in days. The weather is supposed to get nasty again the next few days and through the weekend, so I pulled up my snowpants and made the best of it.
Here are a few scenes from the field.
A solid blanket of snow covered everything and made accessing the tunnels a chore. I did a little maintenance, but have more to do to support the ends of our low tunnels when this melts…
While the world outside the tunnels was white, a bounty of greens lay beneath. This short tunnel (covered in Agribon and plastic) contains tatsoi, pac choi cilantro, romaine, and arugula. I’ve noticed growth increasing already since the winter solstice. I harvested most of the lettuces and left a little to see how they would hold up to the sub-zero temperatures coming early next week. I wondered if plants packed closer together would fair better than those hanging out alone, which I’m noting here to remind myself to check.
A bowl of arugula, some of which was buried under the row covers, which collapsed on the ends, from the weight of the snow.
Swiss chard, tatsoi, and pac choi under a low tunnel.
Same low tunnel – Lacinato and Red Russian kale in front, spinach in the back.
Close-up of arugula in a second short tunnel.
The high tunnel continues to enchant us. The pac choi on the left was hit hard by cold two nights before but completely bounced back (see below). I plan to add some low covers inside the tunnel in advance of the super cold temperatures coming next week.
Did you know cilantro embraces the cold?
Spinach starts in a cold frame, inside the tunnel. Surprising to me (but perhaps not to someone with more scientific understanding), these frames are not holding temperature as well as the tunnel itself (see chart below). These will be transplanted into a bed the next warm spell we see. (Note: This experiment was introduced in an earlier post, referencing the MidOhio Food Bank that made it possible.)
In the basket, chard, kale, and mustard for our harvest. On the ground, the chickens’ fodder.
After school, Cora helped me document temperatures in various locations.
I have been doing a lot more reading, thinking, and planning for companion planting after hearing Dan Kittredge speak at OEFFA a few weeks back. (Read about the conference and talks in this post on OEFFA Conference 2017.) I’m interplanting things I haven’t mixed up before and looking ahead to what I can add later to long season crops beds I am sowing now. All this in order to create symbiotic relationships between the plants so they are feeding and protecting one another, and the microbes in the soil, better.
“The Farmers Almanac Gardening by the Moon Calendar is determined by our age-old formula and applies generally to regions where the climate is favorable. Because the gardening calendar is based on the phase and position of the Moon, it is consistent across all growing zones.”
I’ve been wanting to get a better handle on biodynamics. Using the Farmer’s Almanac in conjunction with a few biodynamic calendars I’ve been consulting seems like a relatively easy way of getting started.
According to the calendar, today was an optimal day for planting root crops so I set some radishes, carrots, and beet seeds out. I added a bit of innoculant to the seed packs, per Kittredge’s suggestion that the minerals in this dust help germinating seeds develop the systems they need to absorb and digest nutrients throughout their lives. Kittredge compared this with the precious colostrum nursing mammals produce for their babies in the first few days of life. Colostrum helps human infants develop healthy gut flora. I want my plants to have healthy guts because I’m sure it’ll mean I’ll have healthier gut too!
Tomorrow is a good day too, so it isn’t too late for you to get busy on your own early-early spring planting plan. Here are a few scenes from the field this afternoon to get you planting your own fertile ground.
Winter Density & Bloomsdale.
Red and Green Giant Mustard with Radicchio.
Unidentified Red Leaf Lettuce, Raddichio, and Sassy Salad Mix.
Soil is starting to look REALLY good. Hard to believe this was compacted clay three years ago.
Felt a little guilty moving these cilantro seedlings but they were in the high tunnel only temporarily and suffering because they were planted over a spot that had been compacted, wood-chipped lined paths.Hoping to see their leaf color and vigor improve in the field.
Fall planted Red Russian Kale and Red Giant Mustard with January sown spinach coming in between. Under a low tunnel.
All three kids ate a raw salad tonight! Green and Red Giant Mustard, Tatoi, Spinach, Winter Density Lettuce, Red Russian Kale, Mizuna, Vitamin Greens
The sun was shining bright in Columbus, Ohio today. The temperature only got to about 38°F, but it I had a purpose to be outside, down on the ground, with my hands in the soil. And I was glad for that.
I transplanted onions I started inside and moved around field sown spinach seedlings so they were more evenly distributed.
This is the last night forecasted to go below freezing for the foreseeable future. While it seems awfully weird, we’re going to take advantage of it. Hope this inspires you to do the same.
Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch write a lot about winter carrots. Before last year I NEVER had any luck growing carrots so when I first read his descriptions, I was just plain jealous. And hopeless. Would I have to drive to his farm in Maine for the experience of eating a winter carrot harvest?
This summer we grew a good crop of carrots. They weren’t all perfect (see our post on Fruita Feia), but we kept on trying. Planting carrot seed late into the summer and early fall as summer beds died off. And I’m so glad we did! After a few hard frosts, I can honestly say I have eaten the BEST carrots of my life. Extra sweet and super crispy. Like NOTHING you’ll find in the store.
Next year I hope to have a continuous supply.
Ready and waiting.
One of the best-shaped ever.
Carrots, and some pretty pathetic beets, make for a nice winter’s day harvest.
This one took a turn.
On its way to being carrot/butternut squash souffle. Find the recipe on our Pinterest Recipe board.
We haven’t been posting much lately, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy. While there isn’t much to do outside, these cold dark days beckon us to the kitchen to bake cookies and simmer soups.
Here are a few of our favorite things.
Baked sweet potato fries with bulgar salad featuring our mustard greens and delicata squash. (12/23)
Cream of butternut squash soup with roasted radicchio. (12/14)
Foundation for a salad we brought to a holiday potluck – spinach, radicchio, and kale. (12/6)
When we harvested the garlic scapes in July, we made a few pounds of compound butter, some of which we froze with the holidays in mind. (I don’t know how to take a great picture of butter, but these biscuits from Christmas dinner made a great vehicle for eating ours.)
Hoping to continue eating from our own backyard and basement as much as possible in 2015!